Review of Monocoastal (10th Anniversary Vinyl Edition) [12k2050]

Fluid Audio (UK)

This June, American experimental label 12k are re-releasing some of their oldest records, and both have stood the test of time. Frame, by Shuttle358, was originally produced all the way back in 2000 in Pasadena, California, while Marcus Fischer’s Monocoastal is celebrating its 10th anniversary. For the first time, both records will be released on vinyl.

Monocoastal is described as being ‘one of the most defining moments in the arc of 12k’s evolution’. It was Fischer’s debut release, and he’s since gone on to become a regular on the label, both as a tour partner and as a collaborator. It was a momentous release, to say the least. Monocoastal also had an impact on the record label as a whole, shaping its resulting releases over the following decade, becoming an essential thread in the label’s fabric.

For Monocoastal, Fischer took inspiration from his movements across the West Coast of America. Tape hiss surges forward and recedes, in tune with the Pacific tide, and organic, tiny sounds unfurl like musical origami. Field recordings blend in with more traditional instruments and found sounds. A piano was found, situated in the corner of a salvage warehouse, alone, abandoned, and has been resurrected back to life once again. This sits beside a xylophone, made from metal wrenches. Because of this, Monocoastal contains both analogue and digital mediums. Natural sounds are encouraged and given space to breathe.

Monocoastal’s bedrock is a lo-fi sound, its textures eroding and close to dissolving completely, fizzling distantly. Imperfections are essential to the record’s perfectly-shaped textures, and the sound remains a restrained and minimal one. Loops will always try to constrict, but additional layers offer a glimpse into expansion.

Minimalism and cold design can often go hand-in-hand, but although Fischer’s music inclines towards the minimal, the tones he deploys are actually full of familiarity and comfort, recollecting two decades of life on the West Coast. The lo-fi tones ensure that the music is frayed, torn and worn, and that comes from living its life and progressing over time; wrinkles and creases are going to occur, the fresh face eventually ageing. The same is true of music, and its ageing is the most natural thing in the world. The music’s emphasis is on light and the West Coast, ambling along coastal routes and offering up its relaxed, shoreline vibes, although the tones are still somewhat restricted. Space is key, and nothing is covered up. Conventionally ‘less attractive’ notes are given an opportunity to shine. In popular music, those same notes would’ve been edited, polished, or cast away, but beauty should never be defined by popularity, and the unobtrusive hisses and light-refracted textures are made all the more beautiful through their imperfections.

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